Lakesides give us peace, a moment of reflection, and a sense of perfection. It doesn’t matter if they are Italian lakes, or anywhere else around the world. These places are always the places we want to go if we want to take a breath and enjoy ourselves. Lakes in Italy might have an extra bit of spice though since they are also surrounded by breathtaking, charming towns reflecting this beautiful Italian architecture that also gives us a sense of beauty and peace. When we put the two things together, we can understand why so many people choose to spend their holidays in the lakesides in Italy! By the time we finish this article, if you’ve never seen in person a lake in Italy, you will definitely want to do it!
What should you know about Italian lakes?
There are over 1,500 Italian lakes one can discover through the beautiful landscapes of Italy. From the Alpine pools and glaciers to the three major lakes in Italy and those peaceful lakes in Italy that are hidden between the hills of Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria. Though, while there are plenty of beautiful lakes around the country, the northern lakes will always be the diamonds between all kinds of gemstones.
Not only that they are the most picturesque, and the most beautiful, but they are also the largest lakes in Italy, and the deepest ones too. Lake Como for instance hits the deepest point at 410 meters. The largest lake in Italy is Lake Garda, covering 370 square kilometers. Then, the second largest one is Lake Maggiore, of which the northern shores belong to Switzerland.
Almost all these lakes, and the other 8 we haven’t yet shown you are great for water sports, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, swimming, canoeing, water skiing, kayaking, and so on. The northern lakes are also very popular among tourists, while some of them are mostly visited only by locals. Up north, around Lake Garda, Lake Como, and Lake Maggiore especially, you’ll find plenty of hotels, retreats, and resorts too, that we cover in separate articles.
Beyond the beauty of the lakes, the resorts, the picturesque views over the Alps, and the many vacation activities you can choose from, you should also consider the cultural benefits of visiting these places! There are plenty of historic castles, grand palaces, villas, Roman sites, medieval churches, fortresses, and lush gardens that are really worth seeing!
Some of these lakes on the list are volcanic lakes, such as Lake Bolsena, which is actually the largest volcanic lake in all of Europe. For those who love outdoor activities, cycling, and rock climbing, the most amazing Via Ferratas are recommended, especially around Lake Garda! Hikers will also find plenty of trails to explore, while at the top of the mountains, they will gain the most beautiful panoramic view of the area. Let’s see now what exactly Italy can offer when it comes to its lakes!
11 Most Beautiful Lakes in Italy – Italian lakes
Here you will find a list of the 10+1 most beautiful lakes in Italy. Most of these lakes can be found in northern Italy. You will learn which is the largest lake in Italy and the most romantic one. From sightseeing to sailing and sunbathing, all through history and nature, Italy has beautiful lakes that will take your breath away over and over again. Let’s jump in!
1. Lake Garda
Lake Garda is the largest of all the Italian lakes. It’s also one of the most beautiful lakes in northern Italy! Originating from glacial action, Lake Garda is surrounded by the mountains of the Italian Alps. Here you can admire the famous lemon groves in Limone Sul Garda or contemplate arts and architecture. Overlooking Lake Garda Italy, Sirmione castle with its monumental profile is one of the best-preserved in Italy.
There are also various islands that can be reached by ferry. Island hopping and town visits are a must-do. All these attractions, together with natural beauties, made this Italian northern lake a famous tourist destination. On and around Lake Garda, you will see bikers, windsurfers, boat lovers, and people enjoying the calm atmosphere of the lake. All surrounded by fruit trees, palm trees, and even olive groves.
You can also plan a day trip to Lake Garda Italy from nearby cities such as Verona, Venice, or Milan. The closest international airport to the largest lake in Italy is the Valerio Catullo Airport in Verona, but you can easily reach it from Milan or Venice airports. Moreover, Lake Garda is surrounded by charming little towns, such as Desenzano del Garda, Peschiera del Garda, Riva del Garda, Sirmione, and Limone sul Garda. These towns offer some spectacular accommodations and restaurants for the best-ever holiday!
For those who love outdoor activities, there are some fantastic trails of various difficulties for hikers, Via Ferrata for the bold ones with spectacular views, such as the one at Cima Capi. Here actually you’ve got two Via Ferrata to try. One goes up on the side of the steep cliff, which is somewhat more difficult, while the other one has smaller Ferrata pieces and easier hiking trails in between them. Oh, and let’s not forget one of the most famous amusement parks in Italy either, the Gardaland!
2. Lake Como Italy
Are you looking for the perfect glamorous vacation at a lake in Italy? Lake Como Italy is a popular choice among travelers. Northern Italy’s Lake Como, is one of the deepest in Europe at 410 meters (1,300 feet). Its heavenly landscapes attracted the Romans, who built the first villa on the lake. You can visit beautiful villas like Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello.
We recommend staying at least one night at the lake, in order to truly have the possibility to discover and enjoy it. We also have an article ready for you on where to stay in Lake Como Italy! It is no surprise that this famous Italian lake is particularly loved by celebrities. On the shores, you can spot plenty of luxurious villas owned by some of the biggest names in the film and fashion industry.
For instance, George Clooney fell in love with this place and he also bought a villa there. But Gianni Versace also owned a villa here, the Villa Fontanelle. A lake tour is definitely a must-do if you visit! There is a ferry service and lake taxi too that connect the towns and villas along the lake.
Beyond getting lost around the lake, you should also check what to do in Lake Como Italy, in the town of Como, Bellagio, Varenna, and other beautiful lakeside towns and villages. You can easily reach Lake Carda from Milan by train or by car. This is actually one of the best day trips from Milan you should consider!
3. Lake Maggiore Italy
Lake Maggiore is the second-largest of the Italian lakes. Due to its geographical position, this northern Italian lake is claimed by both Italy and Switzerland. Some northern towns like Locarno and Ascona are in the Swiss Ticino region. Beyond beautiful exotic plants, thriving thanks to the Mediterranean climate, the distinctive feature of this lake is the beautiful flora and fauna surrounding it.
Lake Maggiore is about 54 km long and the coastline itself is over 150 km. But why is Lake Maggiore worthy of a day trip? One of the things to do is to visit the Luino Market which is on Wednesdays. You can even visit Lake Como as they are about 1 hour away. It would make it the perfect trip to combine visiting these two lakes actually. Lake Maggiore can also be reached by train easily from Milan.
Most of the highlights for things to see and do at Lake Maggiore are to be found on the western shore, where you can spot subtropical gardens and parks that are just fabulous. Two highlights of these are definitely Villa Taranto and Villa Pallavicino. Stresa is a stylish town that also proves to be a popular base from where boats are taking off to the three Borromean Islands.
The major attraction when it comes to island hopping is definitely Rocca Borromeo, on Isola Bella. This offers grand salons and galleries, sumptuous decorative flourishes encrusted with gold, and gardens covered in the most unique types of plants and flowers. Then, there are great restaurants to explore at Lake Maggiore, such as Cardini or Il Vicoletto. Furthermore, visitors can enjoy the beautiful view this lake has to offer by taking the Mattarone cable car or a cruise on the lake.
4. Lake Iseo
Lake Iseo is another of the largest lakes in Italy, specifically in northern Italy. If you prefer quiet atmospheres instead of those packed with tourists, this northern Italian lake could be your best choice! In fact, it is considered one of the most magical places in Italy. Lake Iseo is famous for medieval towns, vineyards, and forests. This lake is located a bit closer to Milan, basically between that and Verona.
Lake Iseo is between the Lake Garda and Lake Como. You’d reach it by going north from Brescia. Also, you can easily travel here by train, taking one of those between Milan – Verona, or Milan – Venice, and changing in Brescia to the one that’s going up north. The train ride is magical on its own, as it goes all the way up north along the eastern shore of the lake. From Sulzano you can take the ferry boat that would take you to Monte Isola.
A tiny island in the middle of the lake that rises steeply with its forest slopes over the water, and at the summit, which is at 600 meters, there’s a pilgrimage church of the Madonna della Ceriola. There are also amazing trails around the lake, which are perfect for those looking for outdoor activities. Also, watersports, boating, and swimming are possible on the lake. I personally loved the tiny beaches on the northeast shore, as the water here was crystal clear and there were spots to jump too. Locals are frequenting mostly these hidden beaches.
5. Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies is by far the most beautiful of all Italian lakes! It’s surrounded by the breathtaking peaks of the Dolomites in the region of South Tyrol (or officially in Italian: Trentino – Alto Adige region). This region is magical on its own, and the Dolomites are also UNESCO Heritage Sites, so for everyone looking for one of the most astonishing areas in the Alps, this region is well beyond astonishing!
Especially if you choose to stay at one of the best hotels in the Dolomites with views over the mountains! It can be a romantic getaway or a trip with friends, or family, in each case you’ll find plenty to do in this area, such as visiting Lago di Braies too! The lake was formed when a landslide from the neighboring Herrstein created a dam. It has a really intense blue and emerald color, which makes it even more eye-catching.
Lago di Braies is surrounded by forests and offers an incredible picturesque view over the peaks of the mountains. The lake is also starting point for hikers, and you can reach from here the 2800-meter-high Croda del Becco as well as the trails of the Fanes-Senes-Braies National Park. While, if you visit only to see the lake, you can rent a boat, and enjoy the magnificent views from the water. I must highlight, that this area is reachable only by car!
6. Lake Ledro
This famous lake in Italy is not popular for its size, but for its enchanting landscapes. Lake Ledro is also located in the Trentino region, actually quite close to Riva del Garda which is on the northern shore of Lake Garda. Water is crystal clear and forests border the lake, with mountain peaks surrounding it. If you like water sports and you want to enjoy some of them on one of the lakes in Italy, then Lake Ledro will be a nice choice, as you can go swimming, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, and canoeing here!
While if you are more of a hiking person, around the lake there’s a 200-kilometer network of walking and hiking trails that lead to Alpine heights. Some also call Lake Ledro “an oasis for sports and relaxation”. So, if you are visiting the region of Trentino Alto-Adige, Lake Ledro is definitely one to consider! Lake Ledro is also famous for its archeological finds from 1929. Bronze Age dwellings and artifacts, emerged from water when the hydroelectric dam was built.
Remains of a Bronze Age village to be specific. Now, the village has been reconstructed, and the houses were furnished using the artifacts from that age. You can visit here the Museo delle Palafitte di Ledro, which means Ledro Pile Dwellings Museum. This is located in Molina di Ledro, which is considered one of the most important pile-dwelling sites in Europe, and therefore it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum’s workshops and activities are very popular among visitors who come with their families, with kids.
7. Lake Bolsena
Lake Bolsena is Europe’s largest volcanic lake formed about 370,000 years ago. It’s located north of Rome, in the center of Italy on a volcanic crater. Some even call Lake Bolsena the belly button of Italy due to its location. Thanks to underwater eruptions, two islands were formed on the lake, Martana, and Bisentina. Bisentina is also known for churches and Etruscan ruins.
You can access it by ferry boat from Capodimonte and is worth a visit to see the gardens, oak groves, and 5th-century frescoes in the Cappella del Crocifisso. There are also many towns around the lake to visit, or in case you’re staying in Tuscany, like Siena or Pienza, you can easily make it a day’s trip to travel around one of the most charming lakes in Italy. Due to the volcanic origin, the beaches around the lake have black volcanic sand, which makes the place even more interesting!
The main activities that you can do at Lake Bolsena are birdwatching, fishing, windsurfing, sailing, water skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming. It is also suitable for families with small children. There are plenty of agritourism lodges and B&Bs around the lake, and since it’s not touristy, and it’s mostly visited by Italians, you can also get here a real Italian experience if you pick the right accommodation.
8. Lake Orta
Among Italian lakes, Lake Orta is the one that charmed the most poets and writers, as it is definitely the most romantic lake in Italy! For example, we can mention Balzac, Browning, and Umberto Eco, but they are not the only ones! Lake Orta is a little bit over an hour away from Lake Maggiore. Travelers explore cobblestone streets, visit the colorful market, and admire beautiful landscapes with forests and mountains.
Lake Orta has only one island, Isla San Giulio that you can reach by boat from the town of Orta San Giulio. This town, Orta San Giulio spreads along the lakeshore and goes all the way up the hillside on charming medieval lanes. The lakeside village offers a sense of peace and spirituality. This island is especially recommended for romantic trips.
It’s absolutely forbidden to skip the 12th-century basilica at Basicila di San Giulio if you are in town, but beyond that, you’ll find something even better! There is a UNESCO World Heritage site above the town of Orta San Giulio and it’s called Sacro Monte di Orta. It has about 20 chapels that have been built in the 16th and 17th centuries. These chapels drew inspiration from the life of Saint Francis and have been made into sculptures and paintings.
9. Lake Lugano
When it comes to dream places to live, Lake Lugano is my favorite lake in Italy! Lake Lugano belongs partially to Italy, but mostly it is in Switzerland. Despite the size of the lake, there are only a few towns on its shores. The most important one is Lugano in Switzerland and Porlezza in Italy. Most of the lake is surrounded by rugged, vertical forests, which isolate the lake well and give a wild feeling which is enhanced by the mountains in the area.
In Switzerland, Lake Lugano belongs to the Ticino region, which is an Italian-speaking region by the way. To reach Lake Lugano from the Italian side, you can drive from Milan, through Menaggio to Porlezza, to stay in Italy. You can also do a more adventurous drive through the mountains from Argegno on Lake Como, to Osteno on Lake Lugano.
Porlezza is a great place for a holiday, as it offers a beach, and campgrounds, you can also rent boats, or you can go on a tour of the lake with the famous steamers from Lugano. Now, if you’d rather visit Lugano and the swiss size, Lugano is a very expensive place, as many of the wealthiest of Europe live/have houses in this area.
That also explains why a small lakeshore town has Michelin-starred restaurants, such as the Restaurant Gallery Arte al Lago. This is literally a place where you’re eating in an art gallery. And, of course, on the shopping street, you’ll find all high-end, luxury fashion brands too! On another note, Lake Lugano is worth visiting for those loving food and wine. In this area, they make one of the best Merlot, which can be enjoyed alongside some great Italian cheese!
10. Lake Bracciano
Lake Bracciano emerged from volcanic actions as well, and it’s the last one of the most popular Italian lakes. For those who are looking for a place away from the crowds in central Italy, Lake Bracciano is only 32 km away from Rome. If you enjoy watersports, on Lake Bracciano you can do anything from scuba diving, windsurfing, and fishing, to swimming and sailing.
If you are staying in Rome, you could plan a day trip to Lake Bracciano to enjoy the beautiful Bracciano village and visit its castle. It’s also very common to swim in the lake. You can rent out beach loungers, umbrellas, and even boats to pedal around the lake. It is a very family-friendly spot. Popular beaches are Spiaggia Vigna di Valle in Anguillara, Lido dei Gabbiani, and Lungolago Argenti in Bracciano.
In case you’re visiting the town, you’ll be fascinated by Castello Orsini-Odescalchi. It’s quite a famous location for weddings and other important events. The small village of Bracciano is filled with charming alleys and once you get to Belvedere della Santinella you’ll be mesmerized by the views. Lake Bracciano is definitely on the list of famous lakes in Italy!
11. Lake Trasimeno
Lake Trasimeno is also located in Central Italy. The main peculiarity of this place is that the muddy lake lets the water in, but not out. Same as the Great Salt Lake in Utah! The lake is also in a strategic position as the Romans were defeated by Hannibal in 217 BC. Beautiful sceneries are made of vineyards and olive groves that circle the lake.
If you do want to check out the vineyards and drink wine, visit Berlioli’s farm. They have been producing grapes, olives, and wheat since 1900. You can also visit the fishing museum and learn about the art of fishing. Speaking of that, in September it gets particularly crowded, because of the fish festival. During this celebration, fish is cooked in huge frying pans.
The best thing to do while you’re going to Lake Trasimeno is to visit Mugnano. It’s a beautiful little town with ancient houses that have paintings on their walls. But not just any paintings, these are from artists coming here from all over the world. Lake Trasimeno might not be among the best lakes in Italy in terms of popularity, but it’s definitely a place to explore for those, who are looking to experience a more authentic Italian lifestyle.
Lakes in Italy FAQ
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. How big is Lake Garda in Italy? It’s expanding over 369.98 km2. It’s over 50 km long, and over 17 km wide.
There are three major lakes in Italy. Lake Garda is the largest, followed by Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. All three lakes are located at the feet of the Italian Alps.
Yes! You can swim in most Italian lakes, those especially that are frequented by travelers and locals. On our list, you can swim in any of these 11 lakes! Though, even if it’s allowed to swim in Lago di Braies, the water is too cold to do so!
Yes, you can swim in Lake Garda! As mentioned in the previous question, you can swim in all lakes on our list. At Lake Garda, each town around the lake has plenty of beaches. The best, and most popular beaches are definitely on the south shore. In Sirmione, you can find very long beaches along the shore, outside the town center! If you’re asking if can you swim in lake Como Italy, the answer is once again, yes!
Wrapping up the 11 most beautiful Italian lakes
As you can see, if we only mention 11 Italian lakes out of over 1500, you’ve got plenty on your hands to choose from, and plenty to do whatever you choose. Be spoke about the largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda, as well as some other famous ones like Lake Como, Lake Lugano, or Lake Bracciano.
We went through some camping and glamping places, and different lakes that offer activities and facilities for different budgets. Usually, the lakes of central Italy are the cheapest, while Lake Como and Lake Lugano would be two of the most expensive ones. We linked in for you guides and other useful articles under each lake, so if you know what you’d want to visit, make sure you check these articles too!
Italian version: Laghi piu belli d’Italia
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